Cheteshwar Pujara played the anchor’s role yet again with his third masterful hundred of the series, helping India dominate Australia on the opening day of the fourth and final Test in Syndey on Thursday.

Leading 2-1 after the 137-run win in the Melbourne Test, India made a strong start by ending at 303/4 in 90 overs on Thursday. Opener Mayank Agarwal was another solid performer, continuing his good form with a 77-run knock.

At stumps, Pujara (130) and Hanuma Vihari (39) were holding fort for the visiting side, in pursuit of a maiden Test series triumph on Australian soil. Virat Kohli’s men have already secured the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with their unassailable lead.

At the Sydney Cricket Ground, Pujara faced 250 balls, hitting 16 of them for fours, and added 75 runs for the unbeaten fifth wicket stand with Vihari.

Australia were able to make a couple of breakthroughs in the final session. Virat Kohli was caught down leg for just 23. They had consistently bowled towards the leg-stump against the Indian skipper, cramping him for room and the ploy worked as he gloved behind off Josh Hazlewood (2-51) in the first over after the break. It brought Ajinkya Rahane (18) to the crease, who faced the same tactic. Mitchell Starc (1-75) had him caught behind in the 71st over with a sharp-rising unplayable bouncer.

Vihari then took pressure off Pujara at the other end, who was solid as ever, and celebrated his 18th Test hundred off 199 balls. In doing so, he went past 438 runs against England in 2012-13 as the most he had scored previously in a Test series.

This was also the fourth time he faced 200-plus deliveries in the current series, going past Sunil Gavaskar’s record of three such instances back in 1977-78.

Earlier, Agarwal reached his second Test half-century off 96 balls, inclusive of two sixes against Nathan Lyon (1-88) as the two batsmen rotated strike well and kept the scoreboard ticking.

Here are the key statistical highlights of the first day at the SCG:

  • Pujara became the third Indian batsman to score three centuries in a series against Australia in Australia. Virat Kohli scored four in 2014-15 while Sunil Gavaskar scored three in 1977-78.
  • Overall, Pujara is the sixth Indian batsman to score three or more centuries in away Test series (fifth to do it outside Asia). Sunil Gavaskar and Rahul Dravid have achieved that feat twice.

Most centuries for India in an away series

Player Matches (Innings) Runs (Average) Centuries (50s)
Sunil Gavaskar

India in West Indies, 1970/71
4 (8) 774 (154.8) 4 (3)
Virat Kohli

India in Australia, 2014/15
4 (8) 692 (86.5) 4 (1)
Dilleep Sardesai

India in West Indies, 1970/71
5 (8) 642 (80.25) 3 (1)
Sunil Gavaskar

India in Australia, 1977/78
5 (9) 450 (50) 3 (0)
Rahul Dravid

India in England, 2002
4 (6) 602 (100.33) 3 (1)
Rahul Dravid

India in England, 2011
4 (8) 461 (76.83) 3 (0)
Cheteshwar Pujara

India in Australia, 2018/19
4 (7*) 458* (76.33) 3 (1)

  • Pujara is making a name for himself for delivering against Australia.

  • Pujara is in elite company of Indian batsmen for scoring three centuries in Australia.

Most centuries by an Indian in Australia

Player Matches (Innings) Centuries (50s) Runs
Virat Kohli 12 (23) 6 (3) 1274
Sachin Tendulkar 20 (38) 6 (7) 1809
Sunil Gavaskar 11 (19) 5 (1) 920
VVS Laxman 15 (29) 4 (4) 1236
Cheteshwar Pujara 7 (13*) 3 (2) 659*

  • This is already Pujara’s most prolific series, home or away. He’s gone past his previous best of 438 against England in India in 2012/13. He has also now scored more than 400 runs for the third time in a Test series against Australia, first time away from home.
  • Pujara is the fourth fastest Indian to score 18 Test centuries.

  • Pujara has batted for more than 25 hours in this series and for the second time in his career, went past 1000 deliveries faced in a series against Australia.

  • During his brief innings, Kohli became the fastest to reach 19,000 international runs.

  • There were a few landmarks for Mayank Agarwal as well, who became the fourth Indian to score fifties in the first innings of his first two Test matches.